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Choi and Webb share lead on opening day in Malaysia
October 11, 2012

Na Yeon Choi, -6, Rolex Rankings No. 4 & defending champion
Karrie Webb, -6, Rolex Rankings No. 19

Rolex Rankings No. 4 and defending champion Na Yeon Choi and No. 19 Karrie Webb both shot rounds of 6-under par 65 to earn a share of the lead after the first round of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia. Both leaders had bogey-free rounds at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club and hold a one-shot lead over a group of three including 2012 Kraft Nabisco champion Sun Young Yoo, Rolex Rankings No. 9 Mika Miyazato and seventeen year-old amateur Min Lee. The first round was plagued by thunderstorms in the afternoon and players were faced with a two hour and 47 minute weather delay.

Choi had a solid start in her effort to defend her title this week and came out of the gate with four birdies on the front nine. She tallied her final two on Nos. 12 and 14 before getting called in for the weather delay. Webb carded three birdies on both the front and back nine and was able to close out her round with a birdie on the par 3 17th after returning to her round with three holes left to play.

Coming back to an LPGA event as defending champion automatically adds extra eyes and attention to a player looking to repeat. But Na Yeon Choi said most of the pressure to perform well this week in Malaysia has come from herself. Now a major champion after winning the U.S. Women’s Open in July, Choi said she has been holding herself to a higher standard and thriving off some seld-imposed pressure.

“You know, I think I put extra pressure on myself,” said Choi. “A lot of people expect me to win again this year. But I think I like it tense. That makes me a little nervous, more like pressure, but I like that feeling. I think all the players need that little tense, that pressure.”

The South Korean has defended a title successfully and did so in 2010 at the LPGA Hana Bank Championship. Choi’s opening-round 65 on Thursday bested her previous low round of 66 at KLGCC.

“The main thing is I know the course very well and I know I have ability to play well because I did last year,” said Choi. “So I just try to think positively. I have lot of pressure, but I try to thrive off the pressure.”

LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member Karrie Webb has seen her fair share of success on the golf course in her career but struggle a year ago in Malaysia when she finished T42. The 16-year veteran said she’s thankful that a short break before the Asian swing let her recharge the batteries a bit.

“Well, I wanted to improve from last year because I didn't play very well,” said Webb. “Just in a different frame of mind this time around. I've just been back in Australia for two and a half weeks, visiting family and stuff.

“I think I came in with a bit more refreshed frame of mind,” said Webb. “I think last year I was quite tired at this time of the year. The game didn't feel great, so I didn't have a very good attitude as to getting in there and playing well. Just a better attitude this year.”

After some needed R&R, Webb said she had to work on a few mechanical issues following the Women’s British Open. She developed her swing to deal with the extreme winds in Liverpool.

“I took probably about 10 days off when I went home. I was home for my mum's 60th birthday. We had some fun for the first 10 days or so I was home, then I got back to work. It took a little bit because the last time I played was the British. It was cold, rainy and windy. I was in north Queensland where it was nice and warm.

“I had to get out of all the bad habits of playing in the wind at the British,” said Webb. “I worked on just some basic stuff which got me out of all the bad windy swing habits from the British Open and got me feeling good about things.”

Mika Miyazato has had a break-out season in 2012 and has been playing the best golf of her four-year career. The Japan native has consistently produced top-10 finishes including on the Tour’s biggest stage. She recorded three top-10’s in three of this year’s majors and also notched her first win at the Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola. Since her victory in August, she hasn’t finished outside the top-15 and some newfound confidence has lead her

“No pressure,” said Miyazato. “I’m just much more confident than last year.”

Miyazato made the turn at even-par with two birdies and two bogeys on the front nine. She turned it on for the final nine hole and carded five birdies on the back nine, including three out of the last four holes.

“I hit my second shots very well on the back nine,” said Miyazato. “The front nine was ok. I think my concentration was a lot better. I’m looking to really keep my rhythm this week.”

Seventeen year-old Taiwanese amateur Min Lee made her LPGA Tour debut on Thursday and earned her way into the field by regional qualifying in September. Lee, who is the sixth-ranked amateur in Taiwan, received some advice from a credible source earlier this week. She played her only practice round on Tuesday with Rolex Rankings No. 1 and fellow compatriot Yani Tseng. Lee did not hesitate to point out the role Tseng has played in her young career.

“Yani is my idol,” said Lee. “She taught me many things during the practice round about golf, like the mental aspect which was very helpful.”

Lee did not have any performance goals or expectations coming into the week and said nerves got to her on the eve of her LPGA Tour debut.

“This is my first time playing in an LPGA event and I’m very happy to have played this well my first time,” said Lee. “My goal at the start of the week was to try and learn as much as I could and have a good attitude throughout this week. I went to bed at 10 o’clock last night but didn’t sleep well at all. I was so nervous, I kept getting up throughout the night. I kept telling myself, this is the LPGA, this is the LPGA.”

For the third year, the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia held its annual Gala Charity Dinner in efforts to raise funds and awareness for the event’s official charity, Cancer Research Initiatives Foundation (CARIF). The Queen of Malaysia was the evening’s guest of honor and was accompanied by Rolex Rankings No. 13 Paula Creamer at the head table. Creamer was paired with the Queen for Wednesday’s pro-am and was one of four players selected to model local evening wear and jewelry. Fellow Americans Cristie Kerr, Natalie Gulbis and Michelle Wie donned batik inspired dresses designed by local designer Tom Abang Saufi and wore several pieces of jewelry designed by Habib, valuing an estimated $2.3 million.

“I think I speak for most of us when I say this is definitely another part of our job that we love,” said Wie. “We’re like any other girls, we like dressing up for a party and it’s always nice to let our hair down once in a while and enjoy ourselves. And that it’s for such a worthy cause just makes it all the more special.”

“Not surprised anymore. I think with technology and coaching, it's so much more superior these days than when I was a young kid, I'm not surprised to see young kids ready to play. Especially for girls. I think it's harder for guys, because they're not mature. 15-year-old girls are not far from full size. The only maturity they lack is away from the golf course. They're still talking about the cartoons they've been watching (laughter). Their golf games are very mature and ready to go.” –Co-leader Karrie Webb on whether she’s surprised anymore to see teenagers at the top of the leaderboard each week.

SIME DARBY LPGA MALAYSIA
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